Rising star Joni Colburne joins the U15 Prospect Team camp in hometown Halifax

Last week, Tennis Canada hosted the first of three national development camps for its U15 Prospect Team in Halifax, Nova Scotia. Present at the camp was Nova Scotia local Joni Colburne, an up-and-coming player who was invited to join the U15 team as a U12 athlete.

“It felt amazing,” said Joni when asked about her reaction to the invitation. “I wasn’t expecting the invite, and I feel like it’s a great opportunity for my development, hitting with the older girls, and just pushing myself even harder.”

Born in 2012, Joni is the top-ranked U12 girls doubles player and No. 2 U12 girls singles player as of this March. She competed in the U12 and U14 Fischer Junior Nationals in April, where she placed first in the U12 girls doubles division, third in the U12 girls singles division, and fourth in the U14 girls singles division. 

“It is a privilege to be at these camps,” she said. “You have to be disciplined on yourself to show up on time and prepare well.”

Joni credited much of her development at the camps to Tennis Canada’s high-performance coaches and staff, noting that she’s been working with “the best coaches in Canada; probably the best in the world”.

Steve Mahar, Joni’s coach for many years and Director of Tennis and Player Development at Tennis Nova Scotia, spoke positively about the camps to the Chronicle Herald last week: “It’s turning heads here. We have all these players and national coaches coming here—a lot of them for the first time, and it really puts us on the map, and it’ll keep us in the conversation for more camps.”

Although Joni plans to move away from Nova Scotia to pursue a place at the coveted National Tennis Centre presented by Rogers in Montreal alongside her brother Caden, Mahar is thrilled with her development and optimistic about the future of Tennis in Nova Scotia: “Hiring the coaching staff that we’ve managed to get in the last couple of years has been huge. Of course, getting a couple of star players like Joni and Caden to break through and start creating belief in other kids. Now, behind them, we have some other U12 kids that are climbing the national ladder.”

This national camp provided Tennis Canada’s U15 players with an opportunity to train with the national coaching team at the Sobeys Atlantic Tennis Centre in Halifax, which was officially opened in November 2020.

Training with the U15 players, Joni has enjoyed learning about “discipline, determination, and being respectful to everybody,” crediting the success of the off-court development sessions at the camp. 

The national camps are designed to improve player development at a tennis fundamentals level, specific to each player’s needs. The high-performance coaching team provides valuable opportunities for player development both on and off the court to support them on their path to becoming well-rounded tennis professionals.

“I’ve really been enjoying it; it’s felt like a team sport more than an individual sport so far,” said Joni, praising the camaraderie created through these camps.

The high-performance pipeline is designed to help players like Joni reach their long-term tennis goals by transitioning young players into international competitions and high-level matches. While Joni highlights an invitation to Tennis Canada’s NTC as one of her biggest junior goals, in the long term, she hopes to become a top-10 player on the WTA Tour and win a Grand Slam title.

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